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Thread: Creating bike infrastructure from scratch

  1. #1
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Jun 2005
    NYC area

    Creating bike infrastructure from scratch

    Okay, I'll keep it short and sweet. My municipality is looking to apply for some state transportation enhancement funds. I have about a month to six weeks to put a proposal together. The minimum grant award is $200k, with a max award of $2.5 mil. One of the potential projects on the table is to make infrastructure improvements to enhance the ability of cyclists and pedestrians to get around. The pedestrian portion of this is somewhat obvious - add some sidewalks where there should be sidewalks, crosswalks, bump outs, islands, and so forth.

    The bike component of it is tougher. There is no bike culture here and few people beside those who have no other option even walk. Most drive even for short trips, despite the fact that it's a rather dense community.

    I could certainly put in for items such as bike racks, but given that

    (a) bike racks are inexpensive and the project must have a budget of at least $200k, and

    (b) few people ride here, making the addition of something like bike lanes a tough sell given the apparent lack of demand for it -

    I'm wondering whether or not it's something worth pursuing at this time. I ride myself and could certainly put together what I would like to see as a cyclist, but that wouldn't be sufficient to get my boss or the politicians to sign off on it. I'm just a minion planner, after all.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
    Mar 2004
    Where the weak are killed and eaten.
    Keep in mind that there are quite a few hoops to get through to get federal transportation funds. Any changes to the roadway must conform to AASHTO and ADA standards. Therefore, I'd concentrate on other aspects such as racks/lockers or extenstive planning activities with a product. This is probably the motivation behind having the $200k minimum as small enhancement projects often eat up a huge amount of planning or engineering resources.

    MDOT and SEMCOG have both developed maps to assist and promote biking. You may want to review these as an idea of a product.


    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus Veloise's avatar
    May 2004
    Grand Rapids, Michigan (Detroit ex-pat since 2004)
    What DP said. $200k will make a significant impact on the supply of bike racks, but only a short distance of a paved trail. (I wouldn't waste it on bike lane/route signage. And don't get me started on the "bicycle friendly communities" awards.) You simply can't put a bike facility running from every cyclist's home to every destination, but you can add bike racks to all the typical destinations and encourage ridership.

    Here's a link to my -- I mean, our -- bike map, paid for by sponsors' ads. http://www.ci.grand-rapids.mi.us/index.pl?page_id=2665

    Perhaps you could use some of it to hold commuter clinics or workshops for those not in the public school system.

  4. #4
    Some of our best biking towns are laden with bike lanes, even experimental solutions such as blue lanes through intersections, and bike boxes at stop lights. In non-cycling crazed locations, I do think there are some great options that can really help get more new adult riders, and young riders to choose to bike more often.

    Expand and/or re-design existing sidewalks to AASHTO shared-use path standards. This improvement can add to the pedestrian usability, while at least providing a bike facility when one didn't exist previously. I'd recommend these only be used on roads with minimal curb cuts, and relatively low traffic speeds (<35 mph). Pulled to the curb, users will have more visibility from traffic as opposed to being pulled away from the road. This may be counter-intuitive, but is worth thinking about on a specific roadway.

    Look at replacing two-way left turn lanes with landscaped medians, reducing cut-across traffic, and enhancing bicycle and pedestrian safety.

    Add striped shoulders where they do not exist as a bike facility. They need not be marked as "lanes" or "routes", which may flag political problems with anti-bikers. Shoulders help everybody.

    Add separated shared-use paths off-street (AASHTO trails) connecting those arterial and collector routes to good origins and destinations (schools, parks, shopping centers...)

    In short, prioritize bike facilities to focus on those that serve multiple needs! Good luck.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
    Mar 2005
    Clayobyrne, CB
    For that kind of money, I would look at connecting adjacent neighborhood with small multi-use paths (potentially using unimproved rights-of-way or utility corridors). These types of facilities would likely get the most use and you'll get the most bang for your buck. We have started to really focus on this, as our state-maintained arterials are so far beyond redemption that only the craziest of cyclists would risk using them.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    From my experience I would recommend selling bicycling as an alternative to driving when applying for a grant, but in a community I would pitch it as a recreational amenity. Has your community mapped any future bicycle paths, or do you see opportunities for developing an off-street path? I have planned and built these through city properties (parks, DPW garage property, tax-foreclosed abandoned foundry), platted but undeveloped road right-of-way, active and abandoned rail lines, etc.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7
          Downtown's avatar
    Oct 2000
    Under a pile of back issue Plannings
    I think that you'll find that the pedestrian accommodations may eat up a big portion of your budget - between drainage issues, and ADA issues - the total to retrofit two existing signalized intersections to make them pedestrian friendly - crosswalks, pedestrian signals with countdown timers, all ADA compliant - $140,000. That's at an intersection on a road that already has a sidwalk on one side of it, and doesn't include any new sidewalk segments.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Jun 2005
    NYC area
    Thanks everyone, for all of your great ideas. I like the idea of using the funds toward some kind of MUP but that'll be difficult to pull off - the community is completely built out and I'll need to check and see if these funds can even be used for right of way acquisition (if we were to pursue the easements necessary for paths or sidewalks).

    One of our main problem roads here is an arterial running through the center of town that was widened from 2 to 4 lanes back in the 70s. The speed limit Village-wide is 30, but the widened road has a design speed of more like 50 so that's the speed that cars actually travel. The road has few crosswalks and thus pedestrians sprint across the road in packs of 3 or 4 every few minutes. It's insane and we need to do something about it, but the road is under New York State jurisdiction as a State Route. I'm doubtful that we can use state funds to implement pedestrian-friendly accommodations on one of their own roads, but if there's anywhere that needs it, it's this particular arterial.

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